Rei Toma is a mangaka whose works I’ve all loved and I’ve been really looking forward to her newest series, The King’s Beast, which is set in the same world as Dawn of the Arcana – though on a different continent, so you don’t need to have read that series to jump into this one.
When they were children, it was discovered that Rangetsu’s twin brother, Sogetsu, possessed a special power and he was chosen to be a beast-servant to the fourth prince of the kingdom. Given that Ajin, a race of beast people, are considered a sub-class in their society, being able to serve royalty is considered a great honour and certainly better then being forced into military service, which is what would have awaited Sogestu if he wasn’t chosen. So, even though she misses him and hates her wretched existence, Rangetsu comforts herself by imagining that Sogetsu is living a good life and that she’ll be able to reunite with him someday. Then Rangetsu gets word that her brother was murdered and that the fourth prince was the person who killed him! Consumed by despair and the need for revenge, Rangetsu disguises herself as a boy and joins the military. There, she distinguishes herself enough that she is eventually chosen to serve the fourth prince, despite not having any special powers. Now she will finally have the chance to get justice for her brother! But the fourth prince is not the type of person she expected and actually treats her with respect and consideration, instead of the disdain that most humans show Ajin. Is it possible that he’s not actually the one responsible for her brother’s death and, if so, what does that mean for her plans for revenge?
As I stated above, I’m a fan of Rei Toma’s other works, but one complaint I have about the other manga by her that I’ve read is that the male love interests all start out as jerks. Sure, they develop over the course of the series and become better people, but it’s still a bit of an annoying trope for the heroine to fall for the cold and/or selfish man who is changed by her love. Well, The King’s Beast has broken that trend, as Prince Tenyou is a kind and good-tempered person from the start and I fell in love with him immediately. Even though he wasn’t involved in Sogetsu’s murder, he’s been wracked with guilt because he believes that he indirectly caused his death by associating with him and making him a target for his enemies. Tenyou’s avoided getting another beast-servant since then and is very worried about Rangetsu’s safety when she is assigned to him by his father. Seeing all of his concern and fussing, Rangetsu quickly realizes that Tenyou isn’t the type of person who could have murdered a child.
So, the question becomes, who did?
There are several suspects in the cut-throat arena of the royal court but, so far, the most obvious suspects are the other three royal princes, who all consider Tenyou a rival for the throne. There hasn’t been enough information revealed yet for me to form any theories about who the culprit could be, but I’m thinking we can probably include the other Prince’s beast-servants in the list of suspects, as well. The world of The King’s Beast is a harsh place, especially for Ajin, who have little freedoms and are treated like lesser-beings who can be used, abused and discarded by the regular humans. Under these circumstances, someone might be pushed to do some very dark and twisted things to protect themselves or their status.
Rangetsu’s presence by Prince Tenyou’s side is stirring up the political situation at court again and I’m sure that more clues will be revealed soon. So far, the mystery of Sogetsu’s murder is very intriguing and I’m excited to find out more about what happened and see who is trying to hurt Tenyou with these attacks.
I’m also enjoying Rangetsu as the lead character. She’s a bit emotionally repressed, having had to clamp down her rage and frustration in order to get by in the world, but all these years she’s been biding her time, ready to seize her moment and get her revenge! Rangetsu has cared about little else for so long, she isn’t even concerned about her own safety or what might happen to her after she achieves her goal. Despite her single mindedness, Rangetsu is cautious and calculating; she didn’t take her first opportunity to kill Prince Tenyou, wisely waiting to find out everything she could so that she could be sure that everyone involved in her brother’s death was punished. It’s lucky for Prince Tenyou she has such restraint! I’m hoping that, as she and Tenyou investigate her brother’s death, they’ll begin to get closer and Rangetsu will be able to reconnect with her feelings and start to find something to live for besides revenge. Well, this is a shojo manga, so I’m sure there will be a romance between her and Tenyou, eventually.
Volume one of The King’s Beast was a thoroughly engaging read. With it’s griping mystery plot and two compelling main characters, I can see this quickly becoming a new favourite shojo series of mine! Some of the content in this manga is a bit dark, so it might not be for everyone and I should mention that there is a brief flash-back scene where young Rangetsu is sexually assaulted (though she does manage to get away). Potential readers should use their own discretion when deciding if this series is for them, but I personally really enjoyed it and I’d recommend it to both shojo manga readers and fans of fantasy stories that focus more on political machinations and plots.
Final Score: 8.5 out of 10
What did you think of this manga? Any Dawn of the Arcana fans out there who are excited to return to this world? Let me know in the comments!
For more information on this series, visit Viz Media’s website.
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